If Charlie had to choose one person he most looks up to, it’s the Guard, the world’s best (and, as we understand it, only) superhero. He came out of nowhere, fighting crime and catastrophe with a bunch of high-powered technology. He’s relentlessly selfless, constantly flying around the world to save and protect people from various disasters.
He certainly wouldn’t choose his father, Jack, who one day became so busy with work that he no longer had time to spend with Charlie. Jack didn’t even spend enough time with his own wife, as his work commitments caused them to get divorced. No, Jack is nothing like the righteous Guard.
I mean, take the last time they hung out, for instance. Jack was supposed to finally spend a day with him when, lo and behold, yet another emergency call from work sends him running out the door.
Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for Charlie to process it all when he and his friends stumble across a hidden elevator that leads to the underground secret headquarters of the Guard—directly under Jack’s house. All signs point to Jack being the Guard, but that’s impossible, Jack thinks. After all, aren’t the Guard and Jack two totally different people?
“The Guard is, like, the greatest hero ever,” Jack says. “My dad can’t handle hot wings.”
Guard or not, there’s no denying that the futuristic technology in the secret headquarters is cool, powerful and dangerous—three adjectives that are sure to bring the grubby hands of malicious ne’er-do-wells.
When baddies inevitably come to steal the source of the Guard’s powers, the only people who can stop them are Charlie and his friends. They’re given the option to simply hand over the power source to the mercenaries and walk away, but they instead decide to fight back, even though they’re scared (and with good reason, since they could be killed for it). We see similar instances of other people helping or protecting the teenagers when they realize the danger they’re in.
Jack’s ex-wife reminds him that “there are some things more important than work,” alluding to his relationship with Charlie.
[Spoiler Warning] We also see Jack and Charlie repair their father and son relationship. Jack is, of course, the Guard. And ever since his father got his powers, he’s been distant (literally) as he deals with crises around the globe. However, Charlie begins to realize that his father still loves him, finding various trinkets, memories and indications that point to Jack’s desire to rebuild their relationship. Likewise, Jack comes to understand how his constant hero work has been a relational burden on his family, and he actively decides to fix it.
An alien power orb gives certain people premonitions that include war, famine and extinction. A man wears a cross necklace and cross earrings. Charlie exclaims that the “bad guys” better say their prayers. Someone says “humanity was given a gift from the stars.”
We see two teens kiss, and the girl of another teen couple says they’ll wait until marriage for their first kiss. A girl wears a low-cut shirt. A man has his pants pulled down, and we briefly see his underwear.
Violence in Secret Headquarters ranges from verging on slapstick to life threatening, though the worst will be no worse than the average Marvel movie. The primary issue some may take are the moments when adult mercenaries try to kill young teenagers.
A man is shot and killed offscreen, though his body is later seen. Another person is murdered in an explosion offscreen. People are hit with a variety of superpowered gadgets which usually result in them being blown away by explosions or bursts of energy. Characters bear bloody scrapes, gashes and bruises, and one person’s shoulder wound must be cauterized.
Charlie is struck by a baseball. He accidently blasts a friend with a burst of energy, though she is unharmed. A grenade explodes, hurting some people.
A jet and an alien craft both crash into a forest. An explosion burns a man’s face and sends him careening into a tree. A man is forcefully hit with a flying metal chair. A woman is thrown about by a jetpack strapped to her feet. A man is attacked with an electric whip. People fight one another with punches, kicks and more. A woman is kicked in the crotch.
God’s name is misused 12 times. We also hear the beginning of a cut-off s-word. “H—” is heard five times, and we hear instances of “d–n,” “p-ss” and “crap.” Someone is called an “idiot,” and someone says that they’re “screwed.”
It should also be noted that a woman says a word which sounds like the s-word, but it could also be “shtick.”
A man is seen with a beer.
Charlie burps multiple times throughout the movie. Charlie and his friends cheat on a test, and they also flee from police. They also do doughnuts in a school parking lot. Maya explains that she has an interest in lockpicking. Jack’s busy schedule causes his marriage to fall apart, and he and his wife divorce.
A police officer says, “I hate kids—even my own!” A fly explodes when it is hit by a baseball, and a man steps on a beetle. A man flatulates, and a girl asks how superheroes use the bathroom while in their costumes. A man says that he has “swamp butt.” A few characters get essentially evaporated by a swirling cloud, and we find that they’ve been forever trapped in an empty and dark alternate dimension. A girl asks if a futuristic 3D printer can make a fake ID.
Imagine for a second, if you will, an alternate version of Home Alone. Yes, little Kevin McCallister must still defend his home from intruders, but this time he’s got alien weapons! Good thing, since these bad guys wouldn’t have any qualms straight-up murdering the kid.
That’s Secret Headquarters in a nutshell.
Obviously, the threat of Charlie and his friends getting killed by mercenaries might make some parents put on the brakes. The film has other problems, too. God’s name is misused nearly a dozen times, and even though Secret Headquarters is meant to be a light action comedy, we’re sometimes reminded just how ruthless the mercenaries are.
But while the peril can feel real—too real for some kids—the majority of its content concerns are pretty minor. The film plays more like PG, a teenage-centric version of your typical Marvel movie; If they can handle your average Iron Man or Spider-Man film, Secret Headquarters won’t be any supervillain for them, either. And it comes with some nice messages about family and our priorities—what they sometimes become, and what they should be.
In the original Home Alone, Kevin once growled to his adversaries, “keep the change, you filthy animal.” Here, we see a character or two undergo an actual change. Because even heroes sometimes should.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”